Google becomes a hardware company?

Marcus Southon
By Marcus Southon under News, Insights 13 October 2016

Last Tuesday, Google presented their second keynote of the year: a ‘hardware event’ that saw the launch of the new Pixel phone, Home devices, and VR headset. The event showcased a combined hardware and software effort - more so than we have ever seen from Google previously.

These experiences were all bound together by the Google Assistant, Google’s new vision for smart and personalised AI, ever-present throughout your life.

Google Assistant

By far the biggest focus of the event was the launch of Google Assistant - the AI companion designed to help you throughout the day. Assistant will come built into the two devices launched at the event, namely the Pixel phone and Home device, though we expect this will eventually spread across all devices Google touches. The wealth of data that Google collects allows for smarter, contextual interactions with Google Assistant, which are exchanged conversationally through voice or text.

This was the central theme for the event as a whole, positioning AI as the interface that will tie all of our experiences together - allowing it to become the primary interface layer for all future computing experiences.

It is clear from the event that Google wants to build an app-style ecosystem around the Assistant, and will enable developers to create their own ‘actions’ from December.

Google Home Devices

Google have put together quite the home family with all new Google Home, Wifi and Chromecast. These devices are expected to live and work harmoniously within your home and make the connected future more of a reality for consumers. The centrepiece is Google Home, a voice activated speaker that aims to become your smarthome control centre.

The Google Home device houses the Google Assistant software, and is their voice-activated answer to the Amazon Echo. It will allow for everyday tasks from setting alarms to controlling connected smart products such as the Nest range, and the new 4K capable Chromecast Ultra. Other home devices announced included Wifi - their own branded network router, designed modularly meaning you can place around the house for maximum coverage.

Pixel Phone

Google announced a new high-end, high-spec phone line-up with a new name - Pixel. The phone certainly is priced at the top end of the market, right alongside the iPhone, with comparable specs and a range of distribution partners. However, it’s unclear whether this is a serious push to grow their hardware business or just a reboot of the Nexus programme where Google led the way for other Android OEMs.

Daydream View VR Headset

Google also announced their new VR platform named Daydream, and entered the increasingly crowded VR headset space with Daydream View. Currently, the only Daydream ready phone on the market is the Pixel, but other high-end Android phones should follow soon.

As VR is becoming more and more competitive, Google clearly wanted to make their headset accessible to as many people as possible. With its low pricing of $79, the comfortable, soft fabric look and feel, and access to Google content such as the revamped Streetview, YouTube 360 VR and 3rd party demos including JK Rowling's Wizarding World experience, Google have given themselves a real chance at taking a chunk of this lucrative market.

Conclusion

As ever, this is new hardware to grip the imagination, and points to Google experimenting with a new integrated, premium offering - as well as new business models. However, the most notable (and exciting for us here at TAB) announcements were the introduction of two new developer platforms for Google Assistant and Daydream. These platforms clearly indicate that Google is thinking beyond the smartphone, towards an era of connected devices and experiences where VR and AI are available everywhere, and at any time.

To learn more about what Google’s releases mean for your business, drop us a line.